“Top Lines” are positive, nurturing things that we can do for ourselves in order to support our recovery process. Like most addicts, I struggle with perfectionism. I have a long list of “shoulds” in my head. That makes it very difficult for me to allow myself to truly relax at any time. As soon as I try, my brain starts telling me about all of the projects I “should” be starting, working on, or completing. I think of phone calls I “should” make, chores I “should” check off, excercise I “should” be doing… blah blah blah. If I allow that voice to get going, it will never stop. And either will I, until I’m sick, exhausted or dead.
Putting off self-care is a big red flag for addicts, because when we get overwhelmed with keeping up appearances, pleasing others or trying to live up to some crazy, impossible standard, we flee to unhealthy ways of soothing ourselves. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be responsible people. We just need to recognize that taking care of ourselves is one of our most important responsibilities! My sponsor once told me, “You didn’t get sober to become a martyr.” It’s time to get off the crazy train and actually allow ourselves to enjoy life, rather than treating it like some never-ending marathon.
The problem is, I can’t just sit down for a while. Too many things vie for my attention if I stay in the house. If I try to relax, I’ll end up picking stuff up on my way to my seat, getting up to rearrange something, answering the phone, then remembering to make another call, checking my e-mail, and on and on.
So, I escape to the back yard. Now, that could be just as bad. Weeds to pull, toys to pick up, lawn furniture to straighten… but I make it so I can’t do any of those things.
Last Summer, we got one of those 10 feet diameter, 2 1/2 foot deep pools for my kids. Now, I’m 5’8″, so it’s not like I can do any serious swimming in there. But I have found that it is absolutely perfect for floating. Having to take the time to put on my bathing suit, get a towel, maybe grab something to read, make the kids go inside and then getting all wet (which means I’ll need to dry off and change later) makes me want to stay stay in the pool for a decent amount of time just to make it worth my while. (God forbid I do something that’s not worth my while!)
Finally, I sink into the warm wetnessstill. My breating slows. The nagging in my head calms down. Then, the symphony for the senses begins. The sun and breeze delight my skin, the birds sing and leaves rustle, the clouds morph and billow above me, the smell of grass, dirt and flowers drifts over me. I finally, finally relax.
It doesn’t last forever, but it makes a huge difference in my day when I put forth the effort to stop putting forth effort. When I do, I am more patient and calm, I have better perspective, and most of all, I’m more kind to myself. And that’s what it’s all about.